Vastly expanding the reach of its over-the-top multichannel TV offerings, Sony’s PlayStation Vue service is going national today (March 14) with a set of “slim” packages featuring dozens of live cable channels and next-day access to shows from most major broadcast networks, as well as access to a cloud DVR.
Here’s how the new, no-contract Slim packages stack up.
-Access Slim: 55+ channels that feature cable TV networks and movies and sports nets, including ESPN, for $29.99 per month.
-Core Slim: 70+ channels that include all the channels in Access Slim, plus live national and regional sports networks, for $34.99 per month.
-Elite Slim: 100+ channels, featuring all the channels in Core Slim, plus several movie and entertainment channels, including fare from Epix, for $44.99 per month.
In addition to live TV, the Slim multi-channel plans will also include VOD content from cable channels such as AMC, Disney, ESPN, as well as next-day VOD access to shows from ABC, Fox and NBC. CBS live and VOD programming will be added to select TV markets at a later date, Sony said. The Slim packs will also include PS Vue’s cloud DVR, multi-stream rights, and the service’s baseline UI.
Sony’s approach with Slim will enable PS Vue to deliver a multichannel TV service to go national via ante addition of 203 DMAs. Before Slim entered the picture, PS Vue’s multichannel service, which includes live broadcast TV, was limited to seven markets – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami. In those markets, its PS Vue’s entry level Access service currently sells for $39.99 per month, while Core goes for $44.99 per month, and Elite costs $54.99 per month. PS Vue recent added local ABC stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, with Dallas and Miami on deck.
“We made a concerted effort, working with the broadcast networks, to find a way to reach the broader audience more rapidly,” Dwayne Benefield, head of PlayStation Vue, said.
Though PS Vue’s Slim packages offer next-day VOD access to programing from major broadcasters, that could change as Sony continues to negotiate with the various broadcast TV groups.
“We will continue to be looking to bring on the local, live broadcast signals,” Benefield said. “We’ll add those as we’re able to secure them. I think you'll see a lot of interest from these other [broadcast TV] groups to be part of this great service."
PS Vue also offers some programming nationally on an a la carte basis, including Showtime’s OTT service, Fox Soccer Plus, a new premium channel from Machinima, and a Premium Pack that includes Showtime and Epix Hits, a new channel that’s paired with a VOD library.
Sony launched PS Vue about a year ago in three initial markets (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia), but has not announced subscriber numbers.
Benefield said subscriber “engagement” continues to improve as Sony looks to expand its pay TV base. Customers are using the service an average of more than five hours per day, with the average number channels watched per month has eclipsed 22.
“These are users that don’t want just three or four channels; they don’t want ultra-slim packages,” he said.
That’s somewhat of a different approach than that of Sling TV, Dish’s OTT-TV service for millennials and cord-cutters that provide skinny bundles, starting with a $20 per month core package that includes ESPN. Sling TV recently expanded into local TV with the recent addition of ABC in a new “Broadcast Extra” pack that costs an additional $5 per month, but is currently limited to a Chicago; Fresno-Visalia; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; Raleigh-Durham; and San Francisco.
But the audiences of the two services do share similarities. Benefield said 75% of the PS Vue audience is in the 18-34 age group.
As for devices, PS Vue currently supports the PlayStation 3, PS4, Amazon Fire TV box and Fire TV Stick, an app for iPads and iPhones, and optimized for the Google Chromecast adapter (via iOS devices). Benefield said Sony is working to expand PS Vue to additional platforms.
Some platforms and devices that are notably absent on that list include Roku players and integrated Roku TVs, the new app-friendly Apple TV, the growing Android TV lineup, competing consoles such as the Xbox One and Xbox 360, and PlayStation TV, a gaming and media client device that went on sale in North America in the fall of 2014 for $99.99.